Under Trump’s direction, the administration has been eyeing sweeping unilateral action on homelessness, with top government officials from multiple agencies touring California this month to formulate a strategy. Housing Secretary Ben Carson was also visiting San Francisco on Tuesday, and had plans to discuss the issue.
It is unclear what legal authority the federal government has to clear the streets and how that might be accomplished, however.
California is controlled by Democrats and has become a bastion of resistance to Trump’s presidency. As he arrived here, Trump claimed that he had personally heard complaints from tenants in the state, some of them foreigners. He expressed sympathy for real estate investors here and other Californians whose property values or quality of life are threatened.
“In many cases, they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents,” Trump said. “Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.”
In Los Angeles and San Francisco, Trump said, people are living on the “best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings . . . where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige.”
“The people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up,” Trump said. “We’re looking at it, and we’ll be doing something about it.”
Administration officials have considered razing tent camps for the homeless, creating temporary facilities and refurbishing government facilities, according to two senior government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Trump claimed in his comments to reporters Tuesday that police officers here are “getting sick” from dealing with homeless people. “They’re actually sick,” the president said. “They’re going to the hospital. We can’t let that happen.”
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that a Los Angeles police detective in a division that polices downtown Los Angeles was diagnosed with typhoid fever. Several others in the same station showed symptoms, the AP reported.
“The president’s remarks are abhorrent. He’s apparently more concerned with the doorways and streets than with the people who are homeless and sleeping on them,” said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The administration appears to be focused on Los Angeles’s “skid row,” a homeless encampment that officials from multiple agencies toured last week. Government officials also toured an abandoned Federal Aviation Administration facility in nearby Hawthorne as a potential place to relocate the thousands of homeless people in the area.
Trump has characterized the homeless problem in California and other places as a “disgrace,” saying this July: “We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate.” He more recently directed aides to figure out “how the hell we can get these people off the streets,” one senior administration official said. Fox News has aired at least 18 segments on California homelessness in 2019, according to a review of Fox closed-captioning transcripts.
Planning has involved officials from the White House, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services, among other agencies.
Trump made his remarks about homelessness as he began a two-day fundraising swing across California that is expected to raise approximately $15 million for Trump Victory, a joint effort for the president’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Trump addressed a luncheon at a private home in Portola Valley, which is in the Silicon Valley area, that was expected to net $3 million. Later Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to fly to Southern California, where he will hold a dinner at the Beverly Hills home of real estate developer Geoff Palmer that is expected to raise $5 million.
On Wednesday, Trump will hold a fundraising breakfast in Los Angeles that is expected to raise $3 million and a luncheon in San Diego that should net $4 million, according to a Republican official familiar with the plans.
Stein reported from Washington.